26311/36311 Global Speculative Fiction

This course examines literary and cinematic works of speculative fiction in a comparative context. An expansive genre that encompasses science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, horror, as well as utopian and dystopian literature, speculative fiction envisions alternate, parallel, possible, or imagined worlds. These worlds often exhibit characteristics such as: scientific and technological advancements; profound social, environmental, or political transformations; time or space travel; life on other planets; artificial intelligence; and evolved, hybrid, or new species. The course reflects on how these texts and films reimagine the past and the present in order to offer radical visions of desirable or undesirable futures. To that end, we will consider how this genre interrogates existential questions about what it means to be human, the nature of consciousness, the relationship between mind/body, thinking/being, and self/other, as well as planetary concerns confronting our species. Literary and cinematic works will be paired with theoretical readings that critically frame speculative and science fiction in relation to questions of gender, race, class, colonialism, bio-politics, human rights, as well as environmental and social justice. In addition to exploring speculative fiction as a way of reading and interpreting the universe, we will examine its generic and aesthetic qualities across a variety of subgenres (Afrofuturism, cyberpunk, steampunk, climate fiction).

2019-2020 Winter

59999 Comparative Literature Graduate Writing Workshop

Graduate writing workshop for PhD students in Comparative Literature to engage in various modes of writing, editing, and revision. Writing assignments may include developing conference papers, writing the dissertation prospectus, generating a chapter draft, curriculum vitae and letter of interest drafting, and other professional writing development to prepare students for the academic job market and writing in the academy.

2019-2020 Spring

25113 "In the Beginning": Origin, Style, and Transformation in the King James Version Matrix

(ENGL 25113, JWSC 27703)

The 400th anniversary of the King James Bible (KJV) set off a series of events and texts dedicated to the great influence of this literary classic—a vernacular English Bible from 1611. What is it about the KJV that has so obsessed readers and writers? How has it become part of and affected world literature? Are there competing ways of conceiving the biblical text in English literature? In this course, we will trace some of the KJV’s thematic and stylistic influences in global Anglophone literature; sometimes we will deal with direct allusion and rewriting, and other times we will study the possibilities of more tenuous links. In parallel to this work, we will problematize the KJV’s astounding centrality by: examining some pre-KJV literature and alternative early-modern and 20th century translations (particularly as these intersect with Jewish tradition); attending to subversive and postcolonial literary uses of the translation; and close-reading the political and ideological motivations behind certain forms of critical adulation. Texts examined may include works by authors such as George Peele, William Shakespeare, Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Cynthia Ozick, Zora Neale Hurston, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka.

2019-2020 Spring

29914 Jewish Diasporas: The Exilic Condition and the Parable of Longing

(JWSC 29914)

This course examines the representations of the home across national literatures in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. More specifically, we will explore how the concept of home—real or imagined—is treated in instances of exile and migration that result in cultural hybridity. To explore the ambiguous relationship between home and homeland, students will engage with texts written by Jewish authors of different nationalities. We will focus on the European and Israeli context, exploring how the notion of home or homelessness, as well as historical changes, compel us to rethink the making of a Jewish home. We will also consider how the representation o homes and a homesickness/homeness dialectics shift across cultures and languages, paying particular attention to figures like the European Jew, the Wandering Jew, the Zionist Jew, the Hebrew Jew, and the Israeli Jew. We will trace the Jewish sense of displacement through the interplay between language and place, as we consider the literary representations of the Eastern European Shtetl, Vienna, Berlin, and Jerusalem. We will also consider the choice of language, and space of language as home.

2019-2020 Spring

27703 Nothing New Under the Sun? "Adapting" in Twentieth-Century Jewish Literature

(ENGL 27713, JWSC 27713)

How do works as disparate as Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster’s first Superman comics, Joseph Roth’s moving Job (1930), or Cynthia Ozick’s golem novel The Puttermesser Papers (1997) treat the histories, genres, and texts they (arguably) refashion? In this course, we will take on and close-read a variety of fictions, treating these both as stand-alone works of art in their own right as well as participants in a kind of literary lineage (and sometimes a very non-linear one!). With the help of Linda Hutcheon’s Theory of Adaptation and other theorists, we will engage with different kinds of transfer (Bible to Novel, Fiction to Film/Television; Archive to Drama; Original to Translation, etc.). We will explore different ways of understanding “adaptation” as a concept across linguistic, temporal, and geographic axes, and we will also consider texts and stories which push against and challenge definitions of adaptation. Ultimately, we will ask: What counts as adaptation, and why adapt? Does the art of adaptation and remix take on particular resonances for Jewish diasporic and immigrant writers in the twentieth century? How do these authors and creators pull “original” works, stories and history into new contexts? How do they draw readers and audiences in to alternate, unfamiliar forms? How do popular genres deal with the weight of tradition? How do these fictions negotiate between the familiar and the strange, and to what ends?

2019-2020 Winter

28881 Secrecy and Exemplarity: On Parables and Their Interpretation, from the Bible to Walter Benjamin

(JWSC 28881, GRMN 28881, RLST 28881, ENGL 28881)

A parable – usually defined as “a short narrative told for an ulterior purpose” – should be easy to understand, given its apparent simplicity and didacticism. So why does it turn out to be so difficult, in practice, to interpret parables? From Jesus’s parables and Plato’s famous parable of the cave onward, parables have led reader after reader to the disturbing realization that it might in fact be theparables which read their interpreters, and not the other way around! In this course, we’ll ask how it is that this particular literary form so deftly articulates the relations between text and reader, narrative and interpretation, literature and religion, secrecy and power, sign and meaning, concealment and revelation, fiction and truth. The course serves as both an introduction to the history of the many ways interpreters have engaged the parabolic form in religious, literary, and philosophical contexts, on the one hand, and a chance to develop the intensity and rigor of our own close-reading practices, on the other. Besides biblical and rabbinic parables, we will read parables in works by Plato, Maimonides, La Fontaine, Pascal, G.E. Lessing, Kant, Andersen, Hawthorne, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Kafka, W. Benjamin, and O. Welles.

2019-2020 Winter

24554/34554 Mysticism and Modernity

(ENGL 24554/34554, GNSE 24554/34554, RLST 24554)

This course will explore the impact of medieval and early modern mysticism on modern theories of sex, gender, and sexuality. We will begin by examining some of the most highly-cited texts from the Christian mystical tradition and by paying particular attention to the significance of gender, eroticism, and embodiment in these texts. We will then explore the circulation of these texts in modern theoretical projects on sex, gender, and sexuality with particular emphasis on existentialism, psychoanalysis, and deconstruction. Why does Lacan cite Hadewijch in order to articulate his notion of feminine jouissance? Why does Beauvoir hold up Teresa of Ávila as an exemplar of existential authenticity? Why does Derrida follow Pseudo-Dionysius but not Hadewijch in his meditation on negative theology? And how might these intellectual genealogies give rise to contemporary work in queer, feminist, and queer of color critique? Ultimately, by putting premodern and modern texts into dialogue, this course will enable students not only to develop the skill of diachronic analysis but also to challenge the assumption that mysticism and theory are at all apolitical.

2019-2020 Spring

26885/36885 Queer Theory

(ENGL 26885/36885, GNSE 26885/36885, )

This course aims to offer a foundation in queer theoretical texts. In order to understand the contested definitions of the term “queer” and explore the contours of the field’s major debates, we will work to historicize queer theory’s emergence in the 1980s and 1990s amidst the AIDS crisis. Reading texts by key figures like Foucault, Sedgwick, Butler, Lorde, Bersani, Crimp, Warner, Halperin, Dinshaw, Edelman, Anzaldúa, Ferguson, and Muñoz in addition to prominent issues of journals like GLQ, differences, and Signs, we will approach these pieces as historical artifacts and place these theorists within the communities of intellectuals, activists, and artists out of which their work emerged. We will, thus, imagine queer theory as a literary practice of mournful and militant devotion, trace queer theory’s relationship to feminism and critical race theory, critique the hagiographic tendency of the academic star system, and interrogate the assumptions of queer theory’s secularity.

2019-2020 Winter

CMLT 39801 Realism in the Novel

(FREN 39800)

A study of the way in which nineteenth-century narrative prose represents social/cultural conflicts and individual self-reliance.

2019-2020 Spring

CMLT 29710/CMLT 39710 Russian Anarchists, Revolutionary Samurai: Introduction to Russian-Japanese Intellectual Relations

(EALC 29710/39710)

This course introduces a current of Russian-Japanese exchange and cross-fertilization of ideas running from the late nineteenth century to now. In Tsarist times, many Russian revolutionaries escaped from Siberian imprisonment and exile to America and Western Europe via Japan where they temporarily taught Russian language and literature through the Russian democratic texts while observing the cooperative practices of Japanese commoners. This cross-fertilization of Russian pre-Marxist revolutionary thought with Japanese traditions of communal practice based on mutual aid resulted in a long and rich tradition of Japanese, anti-imperial, pacifist dissident thought, known as "cooperatist anarchism." Our focus will be on the historical role that Russia came to play in progressive thinking in Japan in its differentiation from the West and on knowledge production through cooperation and circulation of ideas among Russian and Japanese intellectuals. We will study the Japanese influence on the thought of Lev Mechnikov, Peter Kropotkin, and Lev Tolstoy; compare the visions of civilizational progress of the state modernizer Fukuzawa Yukichi and Japanese anarchists Kōtoku Shūsui and Ōsugi Sakae; and study the post-WW II continuation of the cooperatist anarchist tradition in the films of Kurosawa Akira, music of Takemitsu Toru, and writings of Ōe Kenzaburō. Secondary readings include:  Derek Offord, The Russian Revolutionary Movement in the 1880s; Sho Konishi, Anarchist Modernity: Cooperatism and Japanese-Russian Intellectual Relations in Modern Japan; Robert Thomas Tierney, Monster of the Twentieth Century: Kōtoku Shūsui and Japan's First Anti-imperialist Movement

2019-2020 Spring
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